Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Houston Astros

2013: 51-111 
2012 Season Recap
2013 Season Preview

Houston's inaugural season in the American League ended about as well as their last season in the National League....in last place.  We told you that the 2013 version could literally go no where but up...

Then Houston promptly goes out and proves us wrong by somehow finishing last year worst than their just as woeful 2012.  How bad was it?  A game in September drew a 0.0 rating in the Houston area, which means that there was no statistical way that Nielsen could prove that anyone actually watched the game.  Nielsen stats were probably unnecessary too since the only way to catch an Astros game in Houston is if you happen to be a Comcast subscriber.  It was a pretty bad 2013 in Space City.  

Et tu, Olympics? 
But that doesn't mean that all hope is lost. The biggest moves and improvement that the Astros made weren't as much on the field as in the General Manager's office.  In the time since taking over their reins of the front office in late 2011, GM Jeff Luhnow has built up the Astros farm system to arguably a top five organization.  

What Houston found out the hard way is that being perennially awful also leads to high draft picks. The Astros top five prospects are all former first round picks including the top picks from 2012 (SS Carlos Correa) and 2013 (RHP Mark Appel).

Those picks with a new collective bargaining agreement that provides significant advantages to teams with lower records allowed Luhnow to make shrewd signings for prospects like Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz along with trades for guys like Jonathan Singleton, Asher Wojciechowski, and Domingo Santana.  The future for Houston is looking up.    

In the meantime, who's left to compete in Minute Maid Park until the kids are ready is the remnants of a complete overhaul and dismantling of anything that resembled a Major League team from the previous ownership/management.  That's not to say there isn't any fresh, young, talent in the Big Leagues.  Top pitching prospects Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer made the ascent to Space City during last season, landed in the rotation, stayed there, and showed flashes of their potential along with occasional brilliance.

Catcher Jason Castro established himself as a bona fide major leaguer as the Astros lone ASG representative; mighty midget 2B Jose Altuve is only 23

The offseason brought in veterans like OF Dexter Fowler to help bring youngsters like J.D. Martinez, Robbie Grossman and L.J. Hoes along.  Perennial journeyman/midseason trade bait Scott Feldman brings his veteran presence along with a friendly contract to the rotations to help increase his trade value as much as possible before the deadline provide his veteran leadership to the young throwers.  In the bullpen, vets Chad Qualls and Matt Albers were signed along with a trade for Anthony Bass to join an injured-but-recovering Jesse Crain to stop-the-bleeding-as-much-as-possible if the starters run into trouble (or try to hold on for dear life if they somehow are provided with a lead).


1.  Can this team possible be any worse than last year's squad?  (hint: the answer is NO)

2.  If the answer to Question 1 is "no", how much better can this team be from last year (hint: the answer is "not a lot.")

3.  So if you guys have already spoiled, questions #1 and #2, what other questions are there?  

4 - 10: How good can prospect ________________ be and when will we see him in Houston?

(answers for #4 - #10: pick any of the following)  


X.  Dexter Fowler: the spark the Astros need or just another Coors Field hitter?
X.  Will Scott Feldman be gone by the trade deadline?
X.  Can Jesse Crain be healthy enough to be another trade chip too?
X.  Who will the Astros draft with their 3rd consecutive #1 overall pick in the draft?
X.  Will anyone be able to watch them?

Any of these above prospects have the talent and potential to be in the Big Leagues by the end of this year.  With the growing trend of teams not being afraid to push youngsters to reach The Show when they're still legally unable to rent a car, you can probably expect to see some of these guys in Minute Maid Park by the end of the year.
Hey, trust me Houston fans.  I feel your pain.  I know what it's like to support a losing baseball team.  I am a Tiger's fan that had to watch my team from literally the entire 1990s and early 2000s suck really, really, hard.  We lost 119 games one year.  Even the Astros haven't done that.  But every summer, we'd still hit up the park.  Tickets were cheap, food was cheap, and you got to see future stars before they were famous.

It was disheartening to see the poor attendance and overall lack of enthusiasm for the home team living in Houston last year (outside of a few die-hards, whose sarcasm and honest-till-it-hurts-analysis makes me respect the loyal Astros fans) .  I can't say that I blame the fans but trust me...this will be an exciting team in the near future and the future for many of these exciting young players is now.

Watch the dynamic, youthful talent in Houston and support your home team and do it this year before the team gets competitive, tickets get expensive, and everyone you hate jumps on the bandwagon faster than a Texans playoff season.  You'll be happy you did.   


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Miami Marlins

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez
The Miami Marlins had an atrocious 2013 season, holding the 2nd worst record in the Major  Leagues and losing 100 games, but that doesn't mean there weren't any bright spots.  Pitcher Jose Fernandez proved that he is the ace that everyone hoped he would be.  Outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna both debuted in 2013, and enjoyed some periods of success.  Other youngsters Jake Marisnick, Rob Brantly, Donovan Solano also got some playing time.  The off-season has been a relatively busy one for the fish, but they haven't exactly made any blockbuster moves.  They seem to be relying heavily on the progress of all of their young players.  

The Marlins have brought in a couple of free agents, with the biggest of the bunch being catcher Jarred Saltalamacchia.  Coming off a World Series, Salty decide to come home to Florida and he should help solidify the catching position.  First baseman Garrett Jones was also brought in and he should provide some pop from the left side and some protection for superstar outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.  The third addition to the offense was Casey McGehee, who was previously playing for Rakuten in Japan.  The Marlins also brought in veteran Rafael Furcal to play second base.  The last free agent addition for the fish has been Jeff Baker, who will platoon at first base with Jones.  The biggest trade of the off-season for Miami was sending oft-injured first baseman and social media genius Logan Morrison to the Mariners for hard throwing Carter Capps.  Capps should slide into the back end of the bullpen and if he can throw strikes, he could eventually dethrone Steve Cishek as the closer of this team.  The Marlins also swapped fourth outfielders with the Cubs, sending Justin Ruggiano to Chicago for Brian Bogusevic.  This team has quite a few question marks heading into the 2014 season, but what are the 10 biggest story lines for this team??

1. Will Giancarlo Stanton be able to put a full season together and produce the power everyone expects him to?

2. Can Yelich, Ozuna, and top prospect Jake Marisnick continue to grow as players?

3. Can Jose Fernandez repeat on his incredible 2013 season?

4. Will the rest of this young rotation (Nate Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner) live up their potential or suffer a great deal of growing pains?

5. Can Casey McGehee produce anywhere near the level that he did in Japan?

6. Will the Marlins be able to provide any sort of protection for Giancarlo Stanton?

7. Will flame thrower Henry Rodriguez throw one of his 100 mph fastballs directly into the fish tanks behind home plate?

8. Can left-handed prospects Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino push themselves a step closer to the big leagues?

9. What will Jeffrey Loria do next?

10. Is Mike Redmond the man for this job or is he just in way over his head?

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with any additional story lines you see for the Marlins in 2014.  Also, feel free to answer any of these questions that we have posed as they are not necessarily rhetorical!

Marlins fans, I leave you with this

Giancarlo Stanton in the ESPN the Magazine Body Issue

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Hall of Famer: Frank Thomas

Growing up in a small town about an hour south of Chicago, I grew up a Chicago White Sox fan.  The main reason I was a Sox fan was because it was generational, my grandpa was a Sox fan, my dad is a Sox fan so low and behold I am a White Sox fan.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  Being born in 1988, I was watching baseball during the Frank Thomas, Jack McDowell, Wilson Alvarez, and Roberto Hernandez era and it enticed me even more into watching, studying and now even writing about the game I love so much.  One player that was prevalent all the way throughout my childhood was #35 "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas.  

No player exemplified to me what baseball was all about more than my favorite player Frank Thomas.  Every time he came up to bat there was the feeling that something great was going to happen and it seemed like 9 out of 10 times something exciting would happen when he stepped up to the plate.  There is no argument from me that Thomas changed the game of baseball in my young eyes and brought the excitement and love of the game of baseball into my heart.  Thomas always seemed to be having a great time playing the game he loved and I can't really remember a time where he did not have a smile on his face while on the diamond.  The countless number of games I attended at Comiskey Park as a young kid, Thomas was the reason I wanted to go.  I remember him always signing autographs for the young fans for after the other players had stopped signing.

Thomas to me was undoubtedly a first ballot hall of famer and I am so happy for him as he gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27 joining other White Sox greats, Luke Appling, Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox.

Congratulations to Frank Thomas on his elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  He will always be my favorite White Sox player of all time.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Time for season previews

Baseball is almost here!! Pitchers and catchers are reporting this week, so to celebrate, we will begin rolling out our season previews for the 2014 season.  If you read at all last year, you know we did a season review followed by a full position by position preview for each team.  Well, we are changing things up a bit this year.  If you read Wade's post last week, you would have seen a brief review of the White Sox's off-season along with his top 10 story lines for the team heading into the 2014 season.  Well, this is the format we will be following for all 30 MLB teams, starting this week.  We will be exploring the teams, starting from 2013's worst to first with Chris doing the American League and myself doing the National League (With Wade chipping in whenever he can).  Coming up first will be the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chicago White Sox Off Season Recap and Storylines Heading into 2014

First off, I just want to say it is great to be back on here after a long long break. It has been far too long since I have been on here talking about baseball.

The Chicago White Sox fan knew that the  2014 campaign started back in July with the trades of Matt Thornton (Boston Red Sox), Jake Peavy (Boston Red Sox), Jesse Crain (Tampa Bay Rays) and August trade of Alex Rios (Texas Rangers).  Acquired in the those trades were future star Avisail Garcia and Leury Garcia along with most importantly, a whole lot of money off the books.  This gave the White Sox a little bit of flexibility heading into the 2014 off season.  These trades were just the beginning for new general manager Rick Hahn.  Hahn was also making noise in July on international signing day by plucking 16 year old Dominican outfielder Micker Zapata (Ranked #2 on MLB.com international prospect list) for $1.6 million.  While Zapata will not be seen for quite sometime (if at all) it showed that the White Sox were finally back into the international market after being nonexistent for years. 
Not soon after the completion of the 2013 season Hahn was quick at work in the international market again nabbing Cuban sensation Jose Abreu to a six year deal on October 29.  This signing was perfect for the White Sox as they transition from an older ball club to a young new fresh looking bunch in 2014.  Abreu is 26 years old and in the prime of his career.  With the rampant success of Cuban players recently, Sox fans can only hope that Abreu can make an impact similar to what his Cuban counterparts Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland Athletics) and Yasiel Puig (Los Angeles Dodgers) have made on their respective teams.  Hahn still wasn't done revamping the roster as he made a couple of moves with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He first traded starting pitcher Hector Santiago for outfielder and ultimate grinder Adam Eaton.  Hahn then quickly traded closer Addison Reed for third basemen and one of the top Diamondback prospects, Matt Davidson. 

As pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training in a few weeks I will give you ten story lines to follow through Spring Training and the season:

1. Is Jose Abreu ready to be the every day first basemen and is he ready to compete at the Major League level?

2. Is Gordon Beckham going to put together a full offensive season after getting married and avoiding arbitration this off season?

3. Is Jose Quintana really a number 2 starter and will he be able to put together another good year for the White Sox?

4. Will Adam Dunn stop sucking, or will Paul Konerko or Dayan Viciedo step in as the every day DH?

5. Will Rick Hahn be able to trade Alejandro De Aza before the start of the season? If not, how does the outfield pan out? Viciedo, Garcia, Eaton and De Aza all fighting for starting spots.

6. Who closes and does it really matter on a team this bad? 

7. Is Josh Phegley really the starting catcher?

8. Can the young starters hold up the back end of the rotation?

9. Was the extension of Robin Ventura's contract a smart move by Hahn and Reinsdorf?

10. What is going to happen at third base for the White Sox will Connor Gillespie step into the role, is Jeff Keppinger still breathing, will Matt Davidson step to the front, is Marcus Semien is viable option?

Check back in throughout the next few months to get my opinion on these topics and more.